Thursday, 31 May 2012

United Nations

Currently I employ about 60-70 people from a few different countries and am about to employ another 20 (CVs from suitable candidates more than welcome). For fact fans everywhere, here are some approximate statistics that in no way reflect stereotypes:

Nationality   No. Staff  % Family Probs  %Gen. Whining  %Time off-illness  % Visa Probs
UK                       19               0                            30                       40                           40
Saudi                    28            100                           70*                     55                           0
Russia                     1              0                             0                         0                            20
India                       5               0                             0                        5**                        0
Pakistan                  1               0                             0                        0                            0
Philippines              3               0                             0***                  0                           20
Australia                 1               0                             0                        0                            20****
Bahraini                  1               0                             0                        0                            0
Indonesian              3               0                             0                        0                             0

* Amazing, tired in the heat after 2 weeks ? Boo hoo, the guy who has worked in Sakhalin in winter hasn't complained once
** swollen testicle. We felt his pain. But enjoyed sending a lot of e mails using the word testicle.
*** And they never will. If I could employ 100% Filipinos I would.
***** 6 months sitting at home, trying to get a visa. Probably a problem with the criminal record check.

Currently we're trying to get visas for Filipinos and Russians. Visa problems I can live with, but once they're here, they're gold.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Viva El Presidente

I'm lovin' it.
The president visited today. El Presidente, the big dog, the Mac Daddy and his posse rolled into town for their yearly visit. A huge tent was erected in the car park, meaning we've been short of parking spaces for the last week. I say tent, but I've stayed in worse hotels, a/c, carpets, lights and seating for 2000 people. Fortunately the speeches were as short as they were unintelligible (which is more to do with a crappy PA than me being as deaf as a post) and soon we were feasting like a pack of famished velociraptors who've stumbled across an over weight limping mammoth.
The other benefits of the visit are: newly painted road markings all around the compound, newly cut grass and lots of plants, a plethora of framed motivational pictures around the admin building and best of all, a really nice leather sofa right outside my office*, which looks great for a kip at the weekends.
Good to know that shareholders' profits are being sensibly re-invested.
I know, it's so easy to be cynical. I've not even broken a sweat.

* I admit I had to ask 3 people **if it was a new sofa. I was out of the office yesterday and couldn't remember what sofa had been there before. I knew there had been one. I remembered it was soft, comfy and I'd dozed on it at weekends.....

** 2 out of 3 people couldn't remember either, proving alzheimer's is a corporate condition.***

***2 out of 3 people couldn't remember either, proving alzheimer's is a corporate condition.****

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Fingers & Thumbs

You meet a lot of people in the oilfield, the old hands who've seen it all, done it all and lost various parts of their body in different countries. I would say you get to meet people and shake their hands, but you never know how much of a handful you're getting. I've worked with one guy we called Kit-Kat and worse was the poor sod known as Twix. Mind you, that's better than earning yourself the name of "Mittens".

Hand's Up, who wants to be a welder?
Today was my turn to do a big safety audit at one of our plants, which meant 3.5 hours of walking around a very dusty mill in 40 deg C funshine. I really felt sorry for the poor guys who work there, but then it's always good to see people whose work puts your own joy into perspective.

I managed to find between 30-40 safety issues to bring up, which is about what I'd expected. During the inspection of the welding area, I noticed the welder had on a wedding ring. I explained to him how he needed to remove it and that he didn't want to risk an injury known as "de-gloving" (I'd advise not googling images of that. Seriously, I feel nauseous now.) which can be caused by wearing rings. After all, I asked, he wanted to keep all of his fingers didn't he ? Turns out it was too late for that and he showed me his other hand, or what was left of it. He'd he stuck it in a screw conveyor at the same plant, some ten years previously.
Well, you have to laugh , don't you ?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Wear In The World

As previously commented upon, oil and gas have a tendency to be produced by countries that would struggle to attract any revenue from the tourism industry. And when an "attractive" destination does receive nature's double blessing/curse, the oil is always in the ugly bits.

Exhibit A: UK- Aberdeen, Dundee, Great Yarmouth
Exhibit B: Indonesia - Balikpapan, Irian Jaya
Exhibit C: Thailand - Sattahip, Songkhla

My opinion is based on first hand experience and I can attest to the fact that although Thailand is my second home and my favourite country, crew changing out of Sattahip at 2 am is the closest thing to CIA extradition that I ever want to experience. It was made much worse by the fact they breathalysed you before they'd let you on the crew boat. And it was the reason why we self administered Xanax, Dormicum and other date rape drugs before we got on the boat for the 8-12 hr trip to the rig. Better to risk drowning due to unconsciousness in the unlikely event of a sinking, than experience the guaranteed group vomiting of 60 Thai workers, infamous for the instability of their sea legs.

So with my imminent departure (69 days, but who's counting ?) from my current location and having heard there are a couple of possible options, of which unemployment is included, I've drawn up a list of  the most likely candidates for my next destination - a sort of sweep stake. Play along at home if you wish...

1. Algeria (rotational, not a bad deal - they speak two foreign languages, 1 of which is french but they speak it grudgingly not arrogantly)
2. Dubai (live in, £6 a pint!And full of smug gits in flash cars. And no hardship bonus as the only hardship is the price of beer. Good Thai food though.)
3. Angola (rotational. Proper, traditional oil field place. A bit wild west, could be great fun like Azerbaijan was 15 years ago)
4. Libya (rotational. 6 months of Nato bombing might have brought it into the 20th Century)
5. Oman (live in. Apparently a bit Judith Chalmers. You can enjoy yourself, but not in a risky way, like jumping into a bath of cotton wool)
Possibly The Only Reason to watch The Avengers movie
6. Abu Dhabi (live in. Sterile, dull, inconvenient and expensive. Like marrying Scarlett Johansson then finding out she's taken a vow of chastity but has an uncontrollable shopping habit )
7. Iraq (rotational. Not as dangerous as you think and hence not as lucrative as it should be for somewhere that alot of people still want to kill you)
8. West Africa (live in if it's Ghana, Mozambique, you know, the nice bits where they still drink gin in the afternoon)
9. Any country ending in "stan" (rotational. Kate Adie would wear a flak jacket, the women are stunning and their male relatives vengeful)
10. SE Asia / Oceania (who cares, you've won the golden ticket!)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Interesting Times

edit: It has been pointed out this reads as a right depressing moan. Try reading it as it was written, with a pint of beer in hand and a big smile on your face.

I've never resigned from a job.  Apart from a paper round, the job in the garden centre, the one in the pizza restaurant, the one in the army barracks kitchens.... which weren't proper "career jobs" anyway.  But like most oil field trash, I've frequently handed in my notice and gone from one company to pastures new, believing that a change in the colour of my coveralls would bring a change in fortune and opportunities. Only then to find out that actually the colour is always brown and it's always stinky.

For reasons far too dull to go into, I tried to resign this week. The prospect of not having a job finally seeming to be far more attractive than remaining in the very secure and financially rewarding position that I currently occupy. It's not been an easy decision to make, but the breaking point was reached this week when I considered which challenge would I prefer :

Like beach volley ball whatever the outcome, it's win:win
a) all of those that I currently face on a 24/7 basis, with the guarantee of a huge increase on the horizon and no end in sight , ever ? Plus a nice salary.

b) wondering what to do next with my life ? No salary guaranteed.

As it happens, I'm in the very fortunate postion to have no dependents (Yay for testicular cancer and divorce! Form a queue ladies.) So apart from an addiction to expensive carbon bikes, my overheads are as low as my financial obligations.

I chose (b) and wondered which Hawaiian island I'd become a perv on.

Unfortunately my boss wouldn't accept (b) and wants more (a).

I'm not completely daft and like carbon fibre and nice watches, so now they have 10 weeks to find somewhere for me to go (or more likely 10 weeks to find some sucker  to take my place). I don't know if I'll be heading for more (a) in another predictably nasty oil field area or lots of (b) in the seedy sort of places the Lonely Planet tells you to avoid.

Either way will probably all end in tears, but at least no illegitimate love children. I really don't know what's going to happen and I'm really happy about it. Interesting times indeed.

Warning: either (a) or (b), I plan to visit UK to make a withdrawal from my wine account & Germany to invest in the local brewing economy in August.